Name: Earl Monroe
Height : 6' 3" Weight : 190 pounds
Position : Guard
Nicknames “Earl the Pearl”, “Black Magic”, “Black Jesus”
Career Stats (per game): 18.8 points, 4 assists. 46.4 career shooting percentage
Accomplishments: Elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1990); NBA champion (1973); All-NBA First Team (1969); NBA Rookie of the Year (1968); NBA All-Rookie Team (1968); Four-time NBA All-Star (1969, ‘71, ‘75, ‘77); One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996)
Teammate and fellow New York legend Walt Frazier compared guarding Monroe to “watching a horror movie.”
Monroe’s signature spin move highlighted his play, leaving him almost impossible to contain. As Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated states , “Almost everyone has a spin move, but no one has the knock-kneed maneuver that unfailingly freed Monroe.”
In “The Breaks of the Game ," David Halberstam writes that defending Monroe was like “guarding a black ghost, for there would be a jerk of the Monroe body as if some unnatural spirit from another planet had entered it, and then a Monroe hitch and a spin in the opposite direction and [the defender] would be guarding not Earl Monroe but a recently vacated piece of Manhattan real estate.”
NBA.com’s Encyclopedia on Monroe : Observers said that watching him play was like listening to jazz: his moves resembled free-floating improvisations, riffs that took off in mid-flight and changed direction unpredictably. “The thing is, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the ball,” Monroe once admitted, “and if I don’t know, I’m quite sure the guy guarding me doesn’t know either.”
Monroe’s flash-and-dash style prevailed in a time when defensive strategy was prevailingly nonexistent. Today’s coaches would throw countless double-teams at him, which would force him to pass, a skill he wasn’t well known for.
Still, if Earl the Pearl in his prime were to be transported to the present, he would fill up SportsCenter highlight reels on a fast-paced team such as the Phoenix Suns or the Golden State Warriors.